Rural Success Stories
Rural Success Stories
Home | View all Success Stories
Rose Grove offers sophisticated shopping experience in a High Plains small town
by Gene O. Morris
To the casual observer, Benkelman might seem a little rough around the edges, a true reflection of its High Plains location and frontier heritage. But walk into the Rose Grove in Benkelman and you immediately know you are in for a unique — and very refined —shopping experience.
The multi-faceted gift store — located in a century-old two-story house — is filled with an abundant display of artistically-inspired gifts and accessories. Centering the displays are hand-painted furniture pieces, featuring muted European and Tuscan scenes. In each of the rooms, the furniture sets the mood, set off with pieces ranging from jewelry armoires and entertainment centers to Bombay chests and sideboards.
But, as impressive as it is, the furniture is just the beginning. The heart of the store is the profuse array of gift items, including cards, purses, pajamas, perfumes, rings, tapestry, wall clocks and poetic wall hangings.
"We started in two rooms on the main floor, but the inventory kept growing," said Brenda Lutz, who started the Rose Grove in 2006. "Our goal is to provide a unique shopping experience with a price range offering something for everyone."
Customers agree that Brenda is succeeding. "I love shopping at the Rose Grove," says Carol Harchelroad, who comes to the store from her home in Imperial. "Brenda has such a wide variety of items, and the aura in the store is wonderful."
Similar sentiments are expressed by Lynn Osborn of Benkelman. "The Rose Grove is a wonderful store. It would not be out of place in a mall in a large city. Brenda has so many unique, beautiful lines at a wide price range. We're lucky to have the store."
It started with a love of art.
The Rose Grove owner is a life-long resident of Dundy County with a love for art. She spent several years doing floral work before deciding to open the store in Benkelman.
Brenda chose a home a block off the downtown business district that had been the former residence of a dear friend, Elaine Blank Raichart, who passed away after suffering a stroke. Elaine’s friendship was an inspiration to Brenda, as is her association with Clarice Kenney, who operated the My Favorite Things gift store in McCook for many years.
“I encouraged Brenda to do what she loves and she has certainly done that,” Clarice said. ”It’s apparent when you walk in the front door of her store. It’s a fabulous entry way leading to a beautiful display of merchandise. You would never anticipate such a wonderful store in a small town in rural Nebraska. There is a selection of fine items equaling that of upper line gift stores.”
'We strive to be unique'
The Rose Grove started out as a three-day-a-week operation, but has since expanded to Mondays through Fridays from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Merchandise shows in Dallas and Atlanta have provided Brenda access to unusual gift ideas, including preserved roses from Spain, pottery from Italy and wall hangings with poetic messages from a Texas artist. “The poems are so beautifully expressive and are among our most popular items,” Brenda says.
“We strive to be unique,” Brenda says. “We want this to be a nice place for ladies to come and take time for themselves.”
The growing clientele — including customers from Kansas, Colorado and Nebraska — attests to the store’s success. By offering a blend of ambience and diverse gift choices, the Rose Grove is providing a delightful Mecca for shoppers in Southwest Nebraska.
Who To Contact...
The Rose Grove
604 A Street
Benkelman, NE 69021
Small town location can be an advantage to stores like Rose Grove
The size and location of small towns can be an advantage as well as a drawback, says Brenda Lutz, the owner and originator of the Rose Grove gift store in Benkelman.
"Startup costs are much lower in small towns," Lutz said. "There is also less chain store competition," she pointed out.
As a result, Lutz said she would encourage others to start a retail business in Benkelman or other small towns "if there is an opportunity to fill a void in the community's economy."
Many towns offer programs to help expanding or start-up businesses, although that was not the case for the Rose Grove, which Lutz started with the support and encouragement of her family.
The key to the Rose Grove's success has been stocking the store with unique items. "I intend to continue to supply my customers with a unique product line that would usually require a trip to much larger cities," Lutz said. "In addition, I plan to aggressively search for unique, quality items I can provide to my customers at a reasonable price. I want to be able to fulfill a wide variety of shopping needs — everything from the eight-year-old stopping by for a Mother's Day present to a husband looking for a 25th anniversary gift."
To spread the word about her business, Lutz relies heavily on word-of-mouth referrals and seasonal radio and newspaper advertisements. Also in the development stage is marketing through the Internet. A site has been established — www.therosegrove.com — and future plans call for on-line ordering.
Meanwhile, the Rose Grove continues to expand its line of gifts. "We're now looking at a line of baby gifts for the store," Brenda said.
One of the main attractions at the Rose Grove is the shopping experience. There are so many different unique gift ideas, most with special stories to explain their significance. "It's an opportunity to take a break from our hectic schedules," Lutz said. "This is the inspiration for our name and slogan: "the Rose Grove — where roses grow and time stands still."